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I know bass are good predator fish to put in a pond, but does it matter if they are largemouth or smallmouth bass? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I know bass are good predator fish to put in a pond, but does it matter if they are largemouth or smallmouth bass?

Q: I know bass are good predator fish to put in a pond, but does it matter if they are largemouth or smallmouth bass?

Joe – Alhambra, IL

A: Bass – both largemouth and smallmouth – make excellent predator fish. These strong, scrappy guys keep your bluegill population in check. They chase frogs, eat crustaceans and snails, and even catch unsuspecting birds and rodents like small muskrats. They’re a definite asset in your pond or lake.

These two fish cousins, however, have their differences. Read on to learn which is better suited to your pond or lake.

Distinct Differences

Though they’re both species of fish in the sunfish family, largemouth and smallmouth bass have different physical characteristics. The largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides, sports a big grin that extends way back beyond its eye, while the smallmouth bass, Micropterus dolomieu, has a smaller smile that reaches only to the middle of its eye. They also differ in their color and color patterns; the olive green largemouth has dark blotches of scales that run horizontally down its flank, and the brassy brown smallmouth has dark scales that run vertically.

Happy Habitats

These freshwater fishes both thrive in lakes, ponds and rivers, but each species has its preference. Largemouth bass favor crystal clear lakes with 2 to 6 feet of water, and sandy shallows and abundant rooted aquatic plants or habitat for spawning. They flourish in warmer water – even enjoying 80 to 90 degree temperatures in the summertime.

Smallmouth bass, however, are primarily river dwellers that like to hang out around pea-size to 1-inch-diameter gravel for spawning. They’ll tolerate lakes and ponds, but they like the steady current and higher rate of dissolved oxygen it provides. They also like water temperatures a bit cooler; anything warmer than 90 degrees F is lethal to smallmouth bass.

Food for Thought

These fishes also have different tastes in food. Largemouth bass aren’t too picky. They’ll gobble through a variety of foodstuffs, from Game Fish Grower Food to smaller fish like shad, perch, bluegill and sunfish. Smallmouth bass, however, stick to the bottom of the lake or river and nosh on crustaceans, insects and smaller fish.

Potential Pondmates?

Because both these guys are fun and challenging to fish, it would be fantastic to have both species in your pond or lake, wouldn’t it?

Large- and smallmouth bass can live together, but it takes the help of an attentive game fish manager to make that happen. The general consensus from most experts is that the largemouths will typically replace smallmouths in smaller pond settings unless subadult or adult smallies are introduced annually. Even if you provide an ideal spawning environment for them, the largemouths will still edge them out.

Bottom line: You’re better off with the largemouths. They’re easier to keep, and they adapt more readily to a pond- or lake-type environment.

Pond Talk: What types of game fish do you have in your pond or lake?

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Should we stock hybrid bluegill in our pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Should we stock hybrid bluegill in our pond?

Q: Should we stock hybrid bluegill in our pond?

George – Girard, IL

A: A cross between a male bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) and a female sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), a hybrid bluegill is an easy-to-catch, fast-growing game fish that makes a fun addition to recreational ponds and lakes. Here’s what you need to know about them and how to best stock them in your pond.

A Better Bluegill

Besides being the state fish of Illinois, regular bluegill are well known for being a feisty, delicious pan fish that thrive in streams, rivers, lakes and ponds. They grow to between 6 and 10 inches long, and appear olive green with an orange underbelly. Their uniform blue-black markings on their gills and fins give them their “bluegill” name. The problem with these fish, however, is that they tend to reproduce very quickly if they’re in a lake with few suitable predators.

That overpopulation situation is solved with hybrid bluegills. When the male bluegill and female sunfish mate, the resulting brood is 80 to 90 percent male. As a result, reproduction slows and the population count is kept in check – but you still have a healthy number of tasty fish growing in your pond.

Stocking Up

When stocking hybrid bluegill, your first step is to determine whether you have fish living in your pond and, if so, what types you have. If you’re unsure, use a fish trap or do some fishing to get a sample.

Hybrid bluegill are still bluegill, so their population will need to be kept in check. Ideally, you should have some predator fish, like bass or walleye, living in your pond. They should be around the same size as the hybrid bluegill so the two populations grow together. Plan to stock one predator fish for every three prey fish; for instance, if you stock 150 hybrid bluegill, also stock approximately 50 bass.

In addition to predator fish, stock some forage species, like minnow or shiners, too. This will give the small fish a chance to grow and provide everyone – predators and bluegill – with something to eat.

Home Sweet Home

Minnows and shiners will provide some sustenance for hybrid bluegill, but commercial fish food, like The Pond Guy® Game Fish Grower Fish Food, will be gobbled down, too. Packed with protein for fast growth, the diet contains all the nutrients the bluegill need to thrive.

The fish will also appreciate some safe hiding spots, fish habitats and spawning areas. We offer a range of habitats, including fish attractors and spawning discs, that’ll make those bluegill feel right at home.

Pond Talk: Has your bluegill population ever exploded in your pond? What did you do to control their overpopulation?

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I occasionally feed my game fish pellet food, but they don’t seem as interested any more. Is something wrong? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I occasionally feed my game fish pellet food, but they don’t seem as interested any more. Is something wrong?

Q: I occasionally feed my game fish pellet food, but they don’t seem as interested any more. Is something wrong?

Scott – Fairfield, IA

A: Fish can be finicky eaters sometimes – particularly when something changes their routine. If your fish aren’t eating their Game Fish Grower Fish Food, it’s likely due to one of these three reasons:

  1. Spooked By Predators
    Have you noticed signs of predators prowling around your pond? Have you seen tiny footprints, disturbed areas around the perimeter or unfamiliar droppings? Raccoons, herons and other fish foes can spook fish and cause them to stay far below the water surface. When they do come up, they pop to the top, check for food and dive quickly back to their safe zone. If this sounds familiar, look more closely for tracks or telltale clues and find yourself a deterrent (or live trap).
  2. Under the Weather
    Sickness, injuries or an inhospitable environment can also change your fish’s eating habits. Check your fish when they come to the surface: Do you notice any sores, red spots or torn fins on your fish? If so, you may need to determine the cause of the illness and treat it accordingly. Have they been gasping at the surface instead of showing interest in pellets? This could be a sign that your water needs more oxygen. Crank on your aeration system (or add one if you don’t have one). Changing temperatures could be causing the cooler and warmer waters to stratify, and an aeration system will keep the water column mixed.
  3. Wintertime Blues
    With the changing season comes a decrease in fish’s metabolisms – and appetite. Remember that fish go into hibernation and stop eating during the winter. If they appear to act normal but just shy away from their favorite diet or eat less of it, they’re most likely responding to the changing water temperature and preparing for the cold weather. Check your pond’s water temperature with a pond thermometer, and cut back feeding and stop entirely when the water temp dips to 45 to 50 degrees F.

Pond Talk: How have your game fish started preparing for winter?

Provide Balanced Nutrition - The Pond Guy(r) Game Fish Grower Fish Food

I didn’t have fish in my pond before but they are there now. How did they get there? – Pond & Lake Q & A

I didn’t have fish in my pond before but they are there now. How did they get there?

I didn’t have fish in my pond before but they are there now. How did they get there? Brenda – Golddust, TN

Where Did YOU Come From?

In states everywhere people are being shocked and amazed by the random appearance of fish in their ponds. These fish were not added by the owners of the pond but there they swim none-the-less, almost mockingly. What is this strange magic?! Is this some form of prank?! Perhaps it is the work of alien beings?! What is going on?

Unfortunately, I can not weave a tail of some sort of intricate conspiracy against pond owners across the nation. The far less captivating reason is that, by some sort of mistake, either you or Mother Nature, have unwittingly moved these fish into their new home. Fish can be introduced into new ponds in quite a few ways. Eggs or fry can be carried in on the feet or mouths of water foul and other animals, or can be clinging onto some aquatic plants you decided to add to your pond. Sometimes flooding can wash fish from nearby ponds, lakes, and streams into your pond. While you can try to prevent any fish from making it into your pond, it is pretty much inevitable that over time, they will find a way to make your pond a place of their own. It is not all bad news though, having a balanced fish population actually contributes to a healthy ecosystem and can actually provide you with a form of entertainment whether it be fishing, feeding, or just watching them from the shore.

Not sure if you have fish? Try baiting a hook and doing a little bit of fishing. Odds are if there are some fish in the pond at least one or two of them will bite. If you are not into the fishing scene you can try to place a Fish Trap in the pond with some bait and see what you pull up. You may get lucky and coax them up to the shore just by throwing some bread or Fish Food into the water. Keeping track of the size, number and types of fish you pull out of the pond will give you an idea of what type of fish population you will be dealing with later on down the road. If you notice you are only pulling out prey fish like Bluegill, you will eventually have an over abundance of little fish swimming around the pond in the seasons to come. To keep things balanced you would want to introduce a few predator fish like Bass to the pond. On the other hand, if you notice that you have a lot of small Bass in the pond, they may need a little more help with finding food. Stocking some Minnows, Bluegill, or feeding them fish food will help them grow to a more appealing size. You can read more tips on adding fish by reading our Pond Stocking Blog.

You can also find some helpful information on the pros and cons of feeding your fish with fish food or properly stocking the pond to let them feed themselves here.

POND TALK: What types of fish naturally found their way into your pond? Did you ever find out how they got there?

Grow your fish fast!

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